President Bush says current laws intended to keep government officials honest are fragmented, confusing and ineffective, and he wants to create an unambiguous code of conduct.
Continuing a weeklong drumbeat to focus attention on ethics in government, the president Thursday is speaking on the topic to 3,700 senior employees from the executive branch of government.Bush on Wednesday named an eight-member advisory commission to come up with recommendations for ethics legislation by March 9.
In naming the President's Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform, Bush said he wants a "code of conduct to ensure that those who serve the public trust avoid any actual or apparent conflict between their personal and public interests."
The president said, however, the standards should not be so "unreasonably restrictive" that they dissuade capable people from entering government.
Last fall, President Reagan vetoed a congressional ethics package, saying it was excessive and would hamper the government's ability to attract top-rated people.
Bush supported the veto, saying at the time that he would put together his own ethics reforms.
The panel is chaired by Griffin Bell, the former attorney general in the Carter administration, and Malcolm Wilkey, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.
Bush began stressing ethics during the presidential campaign, when the Reagan-Bush administration came under fire for what was dubbed the "sleaze factor." More than 100 members of the administration at various times were accused of unethical or improper behavior.
Besides Bell and Wilkey, other panel members are former White House counsels Fred Fielding and Lloyd Cutler, Washington attorney Jan Baran, who is counsel to the Republican National Committee, former Rep. Harrison Schmitt of New Mexico, former counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee R. James Woolsey and Judith Bello, former counsel to the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
Plans for China visit official President Bush will visit China Feb. 25-26 after stopping in Japan for the funeral of Emperor Hirohito, the White House confirmed Thursday. Press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the trip may include other countries as well. "This is not the final parameters for the trip." Bush also may visit South Korea.